Local LGBT groups appealed for counter demonstrators to come forward after the notorious hate group gained permission to picket one of the victim's funerals
After the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based religious group known for their hate-fuelled and headline-grabbing protests, filed for a permit to bring their movement to the funeral of one of the victims of the Orlando massacre, the people of the Florida city lined the route of the burial service dressed as angels to block the church’s members.
At the memorial service for 32-year-old Christopher Andrew Leinonen at the Cathedral Church of St Luke, hundreds of counter-demonstrators from all across the city answered the call of Orlando’s GLBT Community Center, which has asked people to peacefully disrupt the four Westboro members who had travelled, with their infamous placards, to the church.
Dressed in white with large angel wings, the counter-demonstrators’ costumes were created by the Orlando Shakespeare Company and Angel Action Network. The wing designs have repeatedly been worn since 1998, when they first appeared at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, who was killed in a homophobic attack.
At Orlando counter-protest, angels wearing large wings ensure Westboro protesters don't disrupt the funeral proper. pic.twitter.com/QLBZyDrj1F— David Hand (@Ptolemarch) June 18, 2016
While the Westboro protestors shouted their typical hateful comments, the men and women countered their cries in their hundreds, chanting “We love you!” and “Orlando strong!”
“We originally made it as large as possible because we didn’t know the location, we wanted to make sure we could block the [Westboro] signs,” counter-demonstrator Wesley Wizner told the BBC.
“We just intended to make sure we were showing as much support as possible and [the anti-gay protestors] were running into as large of an opposition as we could create.”
Christopher Leinonen was killed in the early hours of Sunday, June 12th, during a Latin night at the Pulse gay nightclub. Another 48 people were killed and 53 people wounded by 29-year-old Omar Mateen in the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Mateen was later shot dead by police.